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Discussion Starter #1
Now that gas is hitting $4+ in many places I started to wonder what the price of the cars would be if we took into account the base price and the millage with the cost of gas. I looked at 25,000, 50,000, 75,000 and 100,000 miles as well as $4, $6 (maybe in 2 years), $8 (maybe in 5 years), $10 (maybe in 5 years), and even $15 (let's hope not). The calculation is:

Average MPG = (City MPG + Highway MPG) / 2

(Number of Miles) / (Average MPG) x (Price For Gas) + (Base Price Of Car)

Granted that the true answer is more complicated than this, but this should give us a rough idea which cars are the most expensive to drive and which are the cheapest.

In calculating the price of gas, I had to factor in the higher price of gas for the Smart Car. Most of the time it appears to cost $0.20 more, so this is reflected in the calculations.

The 3 cheapest cars are marked in green with the lowest cost car in dark green. The 3 most expensive cars are marked in red with the highest priced car in dark red. The exception was the Hummer H3 which should always be marked in dark red, but is only only shown to see how really expensive a car can be.

For those who wish to try their hand at playing with the calculations, you can find the XLS and Numbers (MAC format) versions of the spreadsheets at:

.Mac - iDisk

You need to left click on the little down arrow icon (over to the right of the file name) to download the file.




Several factors come into play here that causes the changes as we look across the chart. First with low cost cars and low millage (25,000) the lowest cost cars have the advantage. However, as the millage increases, the low cost cars with less than the best millage start to be the least expensive. Now the better millage cars start to become more cost effective.

Notice that even at $4 per gallon AND 100,000 miles, the Hybrid cars are still in the top 3 of the most expensive.




Once the gas hits $6 per gallon, at 100,000 miles, the Toyota Prius no longer becomes the top 3 most expensive.




At $8 per gallon and high millage, we start to see the cars like the Ford Focus and the Scion start to become the worst for costs. The Mini Cooper does poorly, because the base price is so high and the millage is not high enough to take it down enough to a reasonable price.




At $10 a gallon, the Hybrid cars are still not the cheapest of the bunch and we have to hit at least 100,000 miles to put them in the mid range. Those who purchased Hybrid cars, assuming they are going to save big on gas, will never see the full savings due to the high initial cost.




At $15 a gallon the Prius now ends up in the low cost category once we hit 75,000 miles. Notice that the Smart Pure was the best in every category for all gas prices and millages, because of the low cost and the high millage. The Smart Passion Coupe did move into this category once 75,000 miles at $4 per gallon or 50,000 miles at $6 per gallon was reached.

While the Smart Passion Cabriolet never reaches the lowest cost range due to the higher base price, it does come close as the price up gas goes up and the millage increases.


Bob Diaz
 

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It is just a likely that the price per Barrel will drop to traditional levels in the $60~$85 range and we may see gasoline back off to under $3.00 in the next 24~48 months

Supply and demand are part of the problem right now but the bigger reason for $125+ per barrel is mainly because of futures traders and China who is cash flush with US dollar$ from the trade imbalance and is out bidding and ensuring a high flow rate right now. China, in the entire country, has ZERO oil resource to exploit domestically. China can not sustain their current level of import too many more quarters as they have to contend with massive expenditures for the recent natural disasters

Very complex subject.

There are significant risks with Iran's bellicose and irrational behavior. If Israel or the U.S. preempts Iran's threat the Saudis and others in that region will Turtle up and all the engineers and workers (mostly from other countries) will haul azz for safer locations and the current flow will be disrupted dramatically effecting MOST industrialized countries

We are exceptionally short sighted for not already have at least drilled, tapped, and capped our own major fields....

I know this is a deviation to your good work ...I wanted to inject that we could get our stuff together and prevent the $8/$10/$15 price pre gallon... BUT also I wanted to acknowledge that there is risk in the future and $8/$10/$15 price pre gallon is a possibility
 

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Bob, thanks for all the legwork on this (or keyboard work); looks like the Yaris and the Versa are competitive with the smart over the long haul. :)
 

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An interesting corollary someone may wish to look into is residual sale value. What's a Prius or a smart worth after 100,000 miles?

Obviously with regard to the smart, no-one can tell. With regard to the Prius, I have heard re-sale values are very good. I have also heard that once the Prius batteries have exhausted their lifecycles, owners might be looking at a severe replacement cost; on the other hand, have any Priuses reached that limit? I've heard of 200,000+ miles Priuses, so perhaps the battery issue is moot.
 

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Did I miss a provision for maintenance or repair costs. I know these are hard to project, but; these are real issues with respect to longivity!! I can replace my smart for $15,000! The Toyota nad Honda hybrids aren't cheap to repair and Toyota has had power plant issues with the Prius. Are the any other vehicles on the list, excluding the H3 that would peak higher if maintenance were in the mix?
 

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An interesting corollary someone may wish to look into is residual sale value. What's a Prius or a smart worth after 100,000 miles?

Obviously with regard to the smart, no-one can tell. With regard to the Prius, I have heard re-sale values are very good. I have also heard that once the Prius batteries have exhausted their lifecycles, owners might be looking at a severe replacement cost; on the other hand, have any Priuses reached that limit? I've heard of 200,000+ miles Priuses, so perhaps the battery issue is moot.
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Residual is important as is true purchase price. For instance, you can generally purchase a Focus any day of the week for 3K under sticker, which makes it one of the cheapest overall costs. As to Prius batteries, they are warranted for 8 years or 80,000 miles, except in Cali where it is 10 years, 100,000 miles. Most of us own cars for 3 -4 years and 45-75K miles or so. Therefore a fair analysis has to consider residual after 3-4 years which is in the range of 50-40% and almost no repair costs because the cars are or could be for the most part under warranty for those periods. Except of course our smarts which have the awesome 2 year warranty....

An interesting analysis is to consider total cost of ownership of a late model used SUV vs these low price high mileage cars. At the hugely depressed prices, they might unfortunately be competetive with some of the more expesive high-mileage cars.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
My calculations are limited and don't take into account maintenance costs, repair costs, resale value, and the possibility of getting a lower price from a dealer.

Another important factor, that is impossible to calculate, is the personal driving experience. For example, the Smart Passion is always going to be around +$2,000 Coupe (or +$5,000 Cabriolet) more than the Smart Pure, but many find that the extras make the drive more enjoyable. How do I factor in that?

While it's not practical for me to add all those factors into the calculations, at least we have a general idea of where things stand. For example, except for very high gas prices and very high millage, Hybrids do not save you any money. They do give you a strong sense of being a "green" driver and have low emissions, but saving money is NOT the reason to purchase a Hybrid.

The Smart does do very well in terms of base price plus the cost of gas even under very different gas prices and miles driven.


I hadn't considered the price of gas dropping, but it should be interesting to see how things appear as gas drops to $3/gallon, $2/gallon, and $1/gallon. OK, so it may never ever drop that low, but it should be interesting to see what the results will be. I'll post the charts later on..


Bob Diaz
 

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You can also use the True Cost to Own ratings at Edminds.com. which considers depreciation from list price, repairs, fuel, insurance etc.


5 year ownership at 15,000 miles per year of base 4 door model of each of the following in thousands is:

Prius 33.0
Focus 32.9
Fit 29.6
Yaris 30.6


Smart not available on ratings yet. They give the details, so it is possible to work the gas mileage variable to differing costs of fuel. Since depreciation is from list, it does not consider deeper discounts from list on US cars vs imports, but that can also be worked in manually.
 

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A great analysis. It should be required reading for anyone considering a new car.
well, that'd be me - don't own, on the reservation list, never driven one but i found bob's anaylis v. interesting. thanks for that robert.

oh and remember: robert can be ah bob, donald can be ah don, but only richard can be ah dick :D - R (that's right - my name's richard)
 

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It is just a likely that the price per Barrel will drop to traditional levels in the $60~$85 range and we may see gasoline back off to under $3.00 in the next 24~48 months
The local newspaper recently had a Govt. chart of gas prices over the past 8 years. The variances were the usual, up in the summer, down in the winter, BUT overall the price climbed steadily. Sure, there were small drops of 30 to 40 cents but the climb on a yearly basis was always upward. I doubt seriously that you'll ever see $3.00 gas again and in a year or two, we may think of $4.00 gas as the 'good old days.'

European gas now runs from about $9.00 in England to $11.00 plus in Germany. Now if you want really cheap gas, you'll need to move to Venezuela or Brazil.

Not to bust your bubble Fredvon, just being realistic based on history.
 

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You're an engineer of some kind ain't ya?
Those are some great graphs. Mind if I snag them to post on another forum?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
After reading a number of different comments and thinking about it, I decided to run a few more calculations. I've also improved the spreadsheet to V2 (Version 2), to make it easier to "play" with the price of gas and see the outcome.

The first look is to see what happens to costs if the price of gas drops. Not likely, but let's take a look...







For those who look closely, I've added light blue to the colors. Green represents the first 3 lowest costs and light blue represents the next 3 lowest costs.

I'm impressed that the Smart Pure can hold the #1 position down to $2 per gallon. While it gives up that position at $1 per gallon to the Hundai Accent GS, it is still in the green zone. Even the Smart Passion Coupe holds the blue position from $3 to $1 per gallon.


One thing that bothered me was the fact that I could not be sure at higher gas prices, if the extra cost for premium fuel would remain at just 20 cents more. I decided to try higher amounts, like $5 vs. $5.50 and $7 vs. $8. Even assuming much higher prices for the higher fuel, the Smarts held their place for low cost.






As I said before, there are a lot of other factors that are not part of my calculations. HOWEVER, when it comes to costs, I believe I can safely say, the Smart really is, "the smart car to buy".


Bob Diaz
 

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Discussion Starter #14
You're an engineer of some kind ain't ya?
Those are some great graphs. Mind if I snag them to post on another forum?
Yes, I am an engineer, who became a teacher at the local College. :) No joke, it's true.


Go ahead and copy the information and post it wherever you wish. Please be sure to include a link to the source here and post a link here to let us know where you posted it.

Also, I've put the spreadsheets up so people can download them and try different things... you will find them at:

.Mac - iDisk

The new version is: Car_MPG_Cost_V2.xls

Be sure to left click on the little download arrow to the right of the file name.



Best Wishes,

Bob Diaz
 

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The Honda Fit is $13 900, not $16 000.
Did you use the higest price for all the cars?
If you did, this chart is not accurate at all.


If you want to get really technical, you may want to price out the cars with equivalent features. It may take you 6 months... but a Prius with the same features as a $16,000 loaded smart Passion costs a lot more than $22k. The smart factory config gives you add-ons for real cheap... $120 for an alarm? $350 upgrade for 6 CD changer and subwoofer? Heated leather seats and other comfort package for $850? Each of those is 3x in almost any other car company I've seen because they're added @ the dealer. The smart is customized at the factory which adds up to big savings.

My point is, it's going to be really hard to get the price of the car within $2-4k... one dealer add-on can sway the price in favor of a competing car. I think Bob's original intent was to compare the impact on gas prices on each car, and separate the long-term prices into bands rather than individual prices... 30k is a different band than 15k. But 17k is close enough to 15k that you may as well just get whatever car's cuter or smiles at you just right... it's entirely a subjective decision at that point.

Bob, great work on the spreadsheets... I was debating running the same comparison and am glad you did the work for me. It confirms that the smart was a good long-term decision for any gas price range. The Hyundai Accent seems to be doing pretty well, too. I still wouldn't buy a Hyundai; I'd rather pay $5k more for an equal Toyota or Honda.
 

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Very complex subject.
Yes, many things to consider. For example; in a few months Ford will be introducing several new engines, one of which is supposed to offer exceptional economy without sacrificing power. Next year the chevy Volt all electric car is supposed to come out, and Nissan may also offer a all electric car next year. Honda is making incredible gains with hydrogen, and there are also going to be air powered cars coming out soon also. Right now I think the Smart car is a great way to go, but the market is quickly changing so that may not be the case in a year or two. It's nice to see car companies getting off their butts and finally doing something. I'll bet GM is kicking themselves in the butt for discontinuing production of the EV-1 :p
 

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Yes, many things to consider. For example; in a few months Ford will be introducing several new engines, one of which is supposed to offer exceptional economy without sacrificing power. Next year the chevy Volt all electric car is supposed to come out, and Nissan may also offer a all electric car next year. Honda is making incredible gains with hydrogen, and there are also going to be air powered cars coming out soon also. Right now I think the Smart car is a great way to go, but the market is quickly changing so that may not be the case in a year or two. It's nice to see car companies getting off their butts and finally doing something. I'll bet GM is kicking themselves in the butt for discontinuing production of the EV-1 :p
I read they crushed every EV1 they made.
Is that true?
 

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I read they crushed every EV1 they made.
Is that true?
You mean these? :D



The story is only partially true though. GM crushed 465 of them instead of selling them for 25,000. There are still around 650 of them in the wild. The reason why they were destroyed is because Chevron controls the worldwide patent rights for the NIMH batteries that were used in the EV-1, which by the way got a mileage of 160 miles, not just 40 miles like some electric car batteries that you hear about these days. Hmmm... wonder why a big company like Chevron would decide to stop production of the electric car? ;) In 2002 Toyota also offered an all electric version of the RAV4, called the RAV4-EV, but Chevron sued them and the bush administration put pressure on Toyota and also stopped them from selling them in the U.S.. The original EV-1 had standard lead-acid batteries.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
The base Honda Fit is $13 900, not $16 000. And all Fits are the same with a 5 speed.
Did you use the higest price for all the cars?
If you did, this chart is not accurate at all.
Consumers Reports also got 34 mpg overall.
As much as I like the Smart, I have to stick up for my little Fit!
ConsumerReports.org - 2008 Best & worst cars review, best & worst in fuel economy
You are correct, I did accidentally use the wrong price for the Honda Fit. (I used the price for the Honda Fit Sport.) The idea was to use the lowest price version and highest MPG for any line.





I'm currently working on version 3 of the charts and should have them ready tomorrow (Tuesday) night.


Bob Diaz
 
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